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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K064-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Pelagius, a Christian layman, was active around ad 400. The thesis chiefly associated with his name is that (i) human beings have it in their own power to avoid sin and achieve righteousness. Critics objected that this derogates from human dependence on the grace of God. Pelagius did not deny that the power to avoid sin is itself a gift of God, an enabling grace; but he was understood to deny the need for cooperative grace, divine aid in using the power rightly, or at least to assert that (ii) such aid is a reward for human effort, and so not an act of grace. Later thinkers who held that God’s aid, though not a reward, goes only to those who do make an effort, were accused of believing that (iii) there is no need of prevenient grace in causing the effort in the first place. So Pelagianism is a tendency to magnify human powers: its defenders saw it as a (frightening) challenge to humans, its detractors as an insult to God. It was hard without Pelagianism to find a place for free will, or with it for original sin.

Citing this article:
Kirwan, Christopher. Pelagianism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K064-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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